Isn’t that always the way of it? Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954).
William Holden and Audrey Hepburn fell in love on this set and began a very passionate affair.
“Before I even met her, I had a crush on her, and after I met her, just a day later, I felt as if we were old friends, and I was rather fiercely protective of her though not in a possessive way.
(William Holden, qtd. in William Holden: A Biography. Michelangelo Capua. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2010. p. 79.)
“She was the love of my life. Sometimes at night, I’d get a portable record player and drive out to the country to a little clearing we’d found. We’d put on ballet music. Some of our most magic moments were there.”
(Ibid. p. 81)
Supposedly Holden wanted to officially leave his wife Ardis, from whom he was separated for the majority of his marriage, and be with Audrey, but she turned him down because he’d had a vasectomy and being a mother was essential to her. I’ve never really seen that 100% substantiated. In any case, Audrey allegedly announced her engagement to Mel Ferrer at a party the Holdens were hosting. And you thought you’d been through bad break-ups.
Audrey married Mel Ferrer in 1954, Holden became an alcoholic who grew difficult to insure on pictures, and they did not see each other for a decade, until they were paired again in 1963 to film Paris When It Sizzles.
“I remember the day I arrived at Orly Airport for Paris When It Sizzles. I could hear my footsteps echoing against the walls of the transit corridor, just like a condemned man walking the last mile. I realized that I had to face Audrey and I had to deal with my drinking. And I didn’t think I could handle either situation.”
He was right in that assessment. Hollywood legend has it that William Holden tried repeatedly, with horrible results, to win back the woman he cited as the love of his life.
According to scriptwriter George Axelrod, Holden often showed up on set drunk and, on one occasion, climbed a tree by a wall leading up to her room. Hepburn leaned out the window to find out where the noise was coming from when Holden grabbed and kissed her. He then slipped out of the tree and landed on a parked car below.
(Martin Gitlin. Audrey Hepburn. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 2009. p. 72.)
Audrey’s interest in men, according to the few who got to know her intimately during her career, though strong, was intermittent. She had affairs when passing through emotionally tense times. She had a preference for men who made the first move, who were bold, … and [who] didn’t appreciate her rare nature. Observers were surprised at Audrey’s tolerance of her lovers’ habits, their bluntness and sometimes crude languge: the opposite of her composed nature. Perhaps that was where their attractiveness lay.
(Alexander Walker. Audrey: her real story. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994. p. 90-91.)
Audrey died of cancer January 20, 1993. As for William Holden,
On November 12, 1981, Holden was alone and intoxicated in his apartment in Santa Monica, California, when he slipped on a throw rug, severely lacerated his forehead on a teak bedside table, and bled to death. Evidence suggests he was conscious for at least half an hour after the fall. It is probable that he may not have realized the severity of the injury and did not summon aid, or was unable to call for help. His body was found four days later.
R.I.P. to both.